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Mix Cocktails Like MacGyver With Scavenged Ingredients

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Traveling but don't want to pay airport or train station prices for a cocktail? Believe it or not, you can make impressive drinks yourself with nothing more than the mini bottles of liquor sold on planes and trains and a few scavenged ingredients. They may not taste perfect, but the fun is in the journey, after all.

A few years ago, this challenge would have been more difficult than it is today. With the demand for better booze in all forms, more brands are releasing mini bottles. Companies have produced kits designed to help anyone make classic cocktails on the go, and you can even get travel-sized bitters (Angostura makes tiny 1/8 oz. bottles).

Mini bottles have their benefits, says Jared Schubert, co-founder of bartender summer retreat Camp Runamok, and it may even be worth it to bring your own. They can be a great way to strike up a conversation with your neighbor on a plane or train. Schubert is a pro, and he recommends bringing three bottles: one that’s recognizable to share with your seat mate, one mid-priced mini to enjoy for yourself, and one cheap bottle you won't regret giving away. “When in doubt, always bring vodka. It’s odorless, tasteless, flavorless, and no one complains about vodka breath.”

Hit The Lab

Unlock your inner MacGyver and you'll be able to mix a tasty cocktail in most situations. “None of these drinks will taste exactly like the cocktails you’re used to,” says Schubert. “All of them are almost drinks. They’re almost good. It’s like what we’d do in the apocalypse.”

To gather ingredients for these cocktails, steal lemon or lime wedges from around the soda fountain. “I’m notorious for taking plastic bags with me to the airport and stealing the fruit from where you get the make-your-own iced tea stations,” says Schubert.

One of the easiest cocktails to fake is a Rum Sour. In preparation, steal a sugar packet and three wedges of lemon. Pour a mini bottle of rum over the other ingredients and stir before adding ice.

If you're working with a mini bottle of gin or whiskey, you can create a makeshift Bee’s Knees or Gold Rush, respectively, says Steva Casey, bar manager at Saturn in Birmingham. You'll need to scavenge honey packets, so good luck. If that's a success, pour the honey packet into a glass and squeeze a couple lemons over top before adding your liquor.

For people who want more spirit-forward cocktails, an Almost Mint Julep may be more your style. “Find an Altoid, a packet of sugar, and a tiny bottle of whiskey. Crush the Altoid up and pour the sugar over it with ice,” says Schubert. “It tastes nothing like a Mint Julep, but it’ll do the trick if you close your eyes and pretend.”

Tequila fans aren’t out of luck. In fact, a Batanga can be made pretty much anywhere, provided you have a mini of tequila, some stolen lime wedges, and a Coke, says Alan Kennedy, national brand ambassador for Trianon Tequila. Pour the bottle of tequila into the glass, and squeeze a couple lime wedges on top. Stir with a knife, and garnish with another piece of lime.

Craving a Moscow Mule? Sidle over to the candy store to buy some candied ginger. But avoid the ginger Altoids, says Schubert. “They’re too dry. Muddle the candied ginger and lime together. Add vodka and soda water, and you have an Almost Mule.”

If none of these seem worth the hassle or you have to run to make your flight, one other option is open: shots. Remember to drink and travel responsibly.

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What's the Right Way to Make a Sazerac?
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If you pronounce New Orleans "New Or-leens," or if you can’t get enough of those Big Ass Beers sold on Bourbon Street, you’re probably not actually from New Orleans. But if you’re feeling adventurous and missing the Big Easy, a Sazerac might be just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Tails and Stories

A few hundred years ago, you might have actually gotten a doctor’s order for a Sazerac. One of the drink's origin stories claims that it was invented by New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud. According to this tale, Mr. Peychaud mixed up the drink with his eponymous bitters and served it in an egg coupe in his shop. 

A more likely origin story states that the drink was invented by a different New Orleans resident (though in the same neighborhood). Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to Aaron Bird and went into the import business. One of his products happened to be Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy. While Taylor was importing, Bird renamed his bar the Sazerac House and began serving a house cocktail that featured Taylor’s brandy and, as the story goes, bitters made by his neighborhood apothecary, Mr. Peychaud.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and even the most dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River and through the Mississippi. Thomas Handy, who owned the Sazerac Bar during that time period, likely switched the drink's main ingredient. This take on the signature cocktail is the one that found its way into the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them, with the recipe calling for "good whiskey," not Sazerac cognac. 

The origins of the Sazerac’s name is vague. It’s possible that it was a nod to the fact that it was the bar's house cocktail, but it’s also possible that it’s a reference to the brand of brandy. In those days, “cocktail” referred to a specific alcoholic drink format. As put forth by The Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806, a “cock-tail” is “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” If you wanted this type of drink with whiskey in it, you would ask for a Whiskey Cocktail. If you wanted Sazerac brandy (until the aphid plague, at least), you'd ask for a Sazerac cocktail.

Hit the Lab

Sazerac Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
2 oz good rye whiskey (use the good stuff)
lemon peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Dash the bitters onto the cube and muddle. Add whiskey and one large ice cube and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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What’s the Right Way to Make a Caipirinha?
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Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0

The Rio Olympics start in just a few weeks, and all eyes are on Brazil. To celebrate, we decided to focus on the country’s most famous cocktail creation: the Caipirinha.

In form, the Caipirinha is pretty much a Brazilian Daiquiri. It’s made from sugar, lime, and cachaça. Cachaça could be considered a cousin to rum, but it is altogether unique. While most rum is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice.

Unlike rum, which can be made anywhere, cachaça can only be made in Brazil. Though it’s often sold unaged, it is usually matured in woods that are native to Brazil, like peanut and balm. As with wine, beer, and whiskey, different kinds of wood affect the product inside differently.

The classifications of cachaça aren’t based on the type of cask in which it’s aged. It can get a bit confusing: Spirit that is not stored in wood or is kept in stainless steel vats before it’s bottled is often called branca (white). But cachaça aged in wood that doesn’t color the liquor may also be labeled as branca. This category goes under several other names, including prata (silver) and clássica (classic).

Cachaça that’s stored or aged in wood is usually labeled as amarela (yellow), in reference to its color. These may also be labeled as ouro (gold). Envelhecida (aged) cachaça, a subtype of amarela, is a bit more involved: it’s considered aged if more than 50 percent of the content of the bottle has been aged for at least a year in a barrel that’s 700 liters or smaller.

Cachaça is the “third most produced distilled drink in the world,” according to Alcohol In Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Though more than 5000 brands existed in 2008, it was relatively ignored outside of Brazil until the recent resurgence of craft cocktails. In fact, until 2013, it had to be labeled “Brazilian rum” to be imported into the U.S. As a result, it’s often mistaken by many people for being a type of rum.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know anything definite about the origins of the Caipirinha. Like the Mojito and the Old Fashioned, the formula was perhaps first used in folk medicine. Carlos Lima, the executive director of IBRAC (the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) told Casa e Jardim that a mix of lime, garlic, and honey with a pour of cachaça was probably used in São Paulo around 1918 as a remedy for the Spanish Flu.

As the story goes, someone eventually decided to skip the garlic and honey. Then, to balance the acidity of the lime, sugar was added. Over time, the drink spread into bars, ice entered the equation, and it became the Caipirinha we know today.

HIT THE LAB

Like the Mojito, the classic Caipirinha recipe is quite simple, but it’s also been the subject of many, many variations. We’ve included the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe as well as a modern take on the drink.

Caipirinha
Modified from the IBA website.

2 ounces Cachaça
1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and pour cachaça over it. Stir and enjoy.

Prata B. (Puerto Rico Asta Ah Brazil)
Recipe by Luis Ramos, bar manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.

1 3/4 ounces Avua Prata Cachaça
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup
1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez sherry
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes
Grated nutmeg, lime zest, lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and stir until glass frosts. Top glass with grated nutmeg, lime zest, and lime wheel.

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